Fast & Furious 7, 2015.
Directed by James Wan.
Starring Paul Walker, Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson, Michelle Rodriguez, Ludacris, Tyrese Gibson, Lucas Black, Jordana Brewster, Kurt Russell, Jason Statham, Ronda Rousey, Tony Jaa, Nathalie Emmanuel, John Brotherton and Djimon Hounsou.
After the death of his brother, Deckard Shaw (Statham) aims to take revenge by hunting down Dominic (Diesel) and his team.
The Fast and Furious franchise has shed some interesting light on the Hollywood blockbuster. It has proved once again that plot and believability don’t always matter, that a strong ensemble can draw you back, and that the procession of top-end cars and beautiful women makes a shit ton of money. There’s no doubt that the latest Fast & Furious instalment will highlight these points further, and it largely deserves to. Despite some oddly outdated misogyny, the fun narrative, terrific cast and cool cars (and stunts) all prove why this setup has worked for so long. It is also the poignant final farewell to Paul Walker, which has played out in a lot of the film’s publicity since his untimely death. For those who have loved what he has given to the series, the film’s touching toast to the man earns the film another commendation.
Running through the casts, you can hardly complain about the developed team, all of whom give exactly what the film needs. Diesel has the alpha conviction, Walker has the kind (yet tough) spirit, Gibson has the comedic edge, Brewster has the maternal heart, Rodriguez has the female dynamism, and Johnson has the sheer muscle; Ludacris has something… Johnson, this time round, takes a back seat for the most part – getting one of the first big fights – in order for Diesel to shine. Diesel’s magnetism comes not only from his gravelly voice and structure, but also his unquestionable love for Walker. Certainly on show in the last six episodes, this time it is unbridled, owing to the tragic facts. If you haven’t been a fan of the films so far, there is a lot to admire about the relationships on and off screen; they all love one another, and make the films they and their fans want to see. These points, as a whole, give Furious 7 an unrivalled element – a bunch of companions so enjoyable to follow.
If the team are the main draw, you have to have an interesting foe for them to face. Making up for some forgettable villains, Fast & Furious 7 uses the Brit-actioneer Statham to full use. We start with him, walking through a war-torn hospital after giving his brother a solemn vow to even the score. It isn’t the best start for the film, addressing a lot of issues about poor writing and acting, and some over-the-top editing. However, these worries start to fade away once it moves into familiar territory. Said territory is based around Toretto and O’Connor (Diesel and Walker), and a humour and heart that has enabled Fast & Furious to engage audiences for over a decade. Furious 7 sets itself up, albeit shakily, with a better story and a more threatening foe. For those less interested in the films, this one should hopefully draw you in faster (no pun intended).
Leaving reality at the door – mindfully noted by characters such as Kurt Russell (an excellent addition to the lot) – Furious 7 goes all out to see its characters in INSANE situations. Sky-diving cars, free-running off cliff-hanging buses, and cars jumping through a hat-trick of skyscrapers – it does silly with a whole lot of style. Having acquired a new director in James Wan (known more for his horror work), the tactics for directing all these sequences are effectual and in-keeping with the past entries. There are also some very cool shots, and artful photography to really get that gleam. Often times, moments are nail-biting, a surprising aspect in a more-than-predictable series. Wan gets top marks for pulling off the most enjoyable Fast film so far.
Issues arise with the way it approaches its target audience (guys aged 15 – 35, predominantly). There are a string of female bum and breasts shots, and a splattering of “car porn”, a lot of which makes you roll your eyes. Addressing female characters as “Woman!” doesn’t do the film many favours with neutrality, nor do the very very obvious product placements. This isn’t just a film; it’s an advertisement for a number of products (you’ll know exactly what I mean when you see the reveal of Corona beer).
Overall, this is a top-notch B-movie all round. Those who are devotees of the franchise will absolutely adore Furious 7; it gives you everything you want, uses its new characters with tact, and concludes in a superb way. Walker’s strikingly poignant tribute will have you tearing up, showing the tactile handling of his passing to the cast and crew’s credit. Hell, even if you don’t like the movie, you can certainly give praise to the tight familial bond the crew have, and how passionately that can be addressed. Things won’t be the same for the sequels, but rest assured, Furious 7 makes its mark.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★
Piers McCarthy – Follow me on Twitter.